State By State: April 4, 2007

Arkansas

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said he does not see himself as a challenger to Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) in his 2008 bid for reelection, according to the Northwest Arkansas Morning News.

Huckabee has not said outright that he will not run against Pryor. Rather, the former governor has said he is focused on running for president instead of planning a Senate run.

Arkansas political insiders see Huckabee as one of the few candidates, if not the only one, who could give Pryor a difficult reelection race.

“The rumors have been out there, and I need to put them to bed: I don’t see it happening,” Huckabee told the Morning News.

“There are no ifs on this one. I have a race I’m in, and I’m committed to it.”

Huckabee raised a relatively paltry $500,000 through his exploratory committee during the first quarter. With other Republicans raising upwards of $20 million during the same period, he trails significantly in both the polls and the money chase.

That has led some to speculate that Huckabee would challenge Pryor if the presidential bid doesn’t pan out.

In February, an Arkansas GOP source familiar with Huckabee’s campaign told The Hill that a Huckabee Senate run was a “credible scenario” and that Huckabee had been analyzing the race.

Huckabee’s presidential campaign denied any designs on the Senate but also failed to rule it out.

“At the moment, he has absolutely no plans to run for Senate,” spokeswoman Kirsten Fedewa said at the time. “He’s on one track, and that’s to explore the presidential bid. He has no Plan B.”

— Aaron Blake


Oregon

Just days after a Democratic poll showed him leading Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) is changing his tune about a possible 2008 Senate bid, telling the Eugene Register-Guard that he is reluctantly considering running and that he will decide by next month.

DeFazio said in January that he had no interest in the Senate, citing his new subcommittee chairmanship and the amount of money he would need to raise.

He reinforced the seniority and money concerns, but also said he is flattered by the courtship of the top Senate Democrats and the blogging community.

At the same time, he remains skeptical.

“The courtship is very different from the reality when people run for the Senate,” DeFazio said.

The Register-Guard reported that DeFazio said he could not rely on the national Democratic Party to finance his bid if he ran.

The poll, which was commissioned by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), showed DeFazio beating Smith 42–38. After its release, DeFazio campaign spokeswoman Jen Gilbreath told The Hill that DeFazio had not changed his mind about running for Senate.

Smith has yet to draw a serious challenge from across the aisle, despite the amount of emphasis being placed on the state by the DSCC.

Smith is a member of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership and has been one of the most vocal Republican opponents of the war in Iraq.

An independent poll released last month showed Smith with a favorability rating in the mid-50s among both Republicans and Democrats.

— Aaron Blake


Smith is also beginning to draw interest from a potentially serious intra-party challenger.

Republican former gubernatorial nominee Bill Sizemore is leaving open the possibility of a primary challenge, according to the NW Republican political blog.

Sizemore, currently the executive director of the Oregon Taxpayers Union, said a primary challenge is “not far-fetched,” the blog reported. He lost to popular Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) 64-30 in 1998.

— Aaron Blake


Rhode Island

Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), who lost his reelection bid last year, is not ruling out a return to political office.

Saying he is a “competitive person” who still has the political bug, Chafee indicated that he might run again, though he did not say which office he has his eyes on.

In a telephone interview with The Hill last week, Chafee said he is enjoying his post-congressional life and noted there are some things about Washington politics that he does not miss.

Chafee is a visiting fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

— Bob Cusack